Cantwell: Senate Failed to Reduce American Dependence on Foreign Oil
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) expressed disappointment this afternoon after the Senate failed to pass her amendment to the energy bill to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by 40 percent in 20 years. Facing staunch opposition from President Bush and the Republican Senate leadership, Cantwell's amendment to the Senate energy bill lost by a vote of 47 to 53.
Cantwell's amendment would have promoted energy independence and security by directing the President to achieve a savings of 7.64 million barrels of oil a day from the amount of oil projected for U.S. consumption in 2025, 40 percent in the next 20 years.
"If the last generation of Americans were brave enough and accountable enough to put a man on the moon, this generation of Americans ought to bet on the ingenuity of American brain power to get off our overdependence on foreign oil," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy Committee. "Independence from foreign oil is about national security and economic security. The Senate failed America today by not raising the bar on energy independence."
In order to prevent the United States from becoming any more dependent on foreign oil imports, Cantwell introduced an amendment to set a national, 20-year goal to import 1.5 million barrels oil per day less in 2025 than we are doing today. The Cantwell amendment would have made it a national priority to achieve, over the next 20 years, oil savings equivalent to 40 percent of our projected foreign oil imports.
At the time of the 1973 oil embargo, our nation only imported about 28 percent its oil supply. But today we are importing about 58 percent of our total supply—a figure that is expected to increase to 68 percent in 2025. Without federal leadership, imports are expected to grow from just over 13 million barrels per day in the first four months of 2005—to 19.1 million barrels per day in 2025.
The Senate energy bill already contains a weaker "oil savings" provision that would direct the President to implement measures sufficient to reduce the country's projected demand for oil by one million barrels a day by 2015. Assuming that all those savings came from import reductions, the U.S. would still be importing 14.4 million barrels a day. That's over a million barrels a day more than we import today. However, even this limited goal is opposed by the Bush Administration.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist voted against Cantwell's amendment, despite comments he made on the Senate floor one week ago, during which he called America 's dependence on foreign oil "irresponsible."
"Unfortunately, the concern we've been hearing from the President and Republican leaders about America's dependence on foreign oil is just empty rhetoric," Cantwell said. "They had a chance to throw a strike for the economic and national security of our nation, and they balked."
Following the vote on her amendment, Cantwell vowed to continue to fight for legislation that would reduce America 's dependence on foreign oil, including provisions she successfully added to the Senate energy bill bolstering production of biodiesel.
SUMMARY OF THE CANTWELL ENERGY SECURITY AMENDMENT
In order to prevent the United States from becoming any more dependent on foreign oil imports, the Cantwell amendment would set a national, 20-year goal to import 1.5 million barrels oil per day less in 2025 than we are doing today. In other words, the Cantwell amendment would make it a national priority to achieve oil savings over the next 20 years equivalent to 40 percent of our projected foreign oil imports.
At the time of the 1973 oil embargo, our nation only imported about 28 percent its oil supply. But today, we are importing about 58 percent of our total supply—a figure that is expected to increase to 68 percent in 2025. Without federal leadership, imports are expected to grow from just over 13 million barrels per day in the first four months of 2005—to 19.1 million barrels per day in 2025.
As long as we remain dependent on oil as a primary fuel source, dependence on foreign imports will remain a geologic and economic fact of life. The U.S. sits on just 3 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, in stark contrast to the two-thirds located in the Persian Gulf region. In fact, the Saudi state-run oil company alone has 30 times the reserves of Exxon-Mobil, the largest American company. Today, nine of the ten reserve-richest companies in the world are owned entirely by foreign governments.
The costs of American dependence on foreign oil are staggering in economic, environmental, and security terms. A recent report from the Energy Department's Oakridge National Lab estimated that foreign oil dependence has cost the American economy $3.6 trillion since 1970. The same report estimated oil dependence would cost the American economy $150 billion to $250 billion in 2005 alone, based on oil prices in the $35-$45/barrel range (when in fact they have actually been higher).
Meanwhile, competition for oil supplies is expected to increase dramatically over the next 20 years as developing economies industrialize rapidly and experience continued population growth. In 2003, China overtook Japan as the second largest oil consuming nation in the world. Chinese demand for oil is expected to double by 2025, nearly meeting current U.S. imports.
Growing demand in the U.S. and developing nations, the declining value of the dollar, political unrest in oil producing nations, and a perceived lack of spare production capacity in major exporting countries around the world have led institutions and firms like the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street's Goldman Sachs to predict the price of oil could climb as high as $100/barrel during some periods in the next 20-25 years.
Technology solutions already exist to dramatically increase the productivity of the United States energy supply and replace imported oil. These include numerous efficiency technologies that can easily be paid for in saved fuel costs, oil extraction technologies that can probably pull more oil from existing or "depleted" U.S. oil fields than was ever produced in the first place, and the potential for American farmers to grow cleaner burning biofuels to replace imported oil. In fact, according to an April 2005 study by the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, our nation has a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace at least 30 percent of our overall petroleum consumption.
THE UNDERLYING BILL: Section 151 of the underlying Senate Energy Bill contains an "oil savings" provision that would direct the President to implement measures sufficient to reduce by 2015 the country's projected demand for oil by one million barrels a day. Assuming that all those savings came from import reductions, the U.S. would still be importing 14.4 million barrels a day. That's over a million barrels a day more than we import today.
THE CANTWELL ENERGY SECURITY AMENDMENT: The Cantwell amendment would strike the underlying bill's oil savings measure. It would replace it with a provision extending the planning horizon to 2025—and set a more ambitious goal, to save oil equivalent to 40 percent of our projected imports in 20 years (7.64 million barrels per day). Under the Cantwell amendment, the U.S. would be positioned to reverse the dual trends of increasing oil consumption and dependence on foreign oil supplies. In fact, when the goal is met, the U.S. would be positioned to reduce imports by 1.5 million barrels per day compared to 2005. Those savings would be equivalent to the amount of oil the U.S. currently imports from Saudi Arabia.
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